Sea World Orlando faces OSHA hearings this week that are connected to the 2010 tragedy in which the amusement park’s killer whale caused the death of a trainer. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration contends Sea World Orlando willfully put its employees in harms way by failing to take enough safety precautions, including using proper barriers, decking or oxygen supply systems.
Trainer Dawn Brancheau lost her life in front of spectators when Sea World’s killer whale named Tilikum pulled her into the pool. Park guests watched in horror as a 12,000-pound Tilikum played with Brancheau’s body until it was pulled out of the pool by other Sea World employees. Brancheau had been sitting on the Shamu Stadium’s pool edge during a private show.
The federal agency that works to prevent workplace injuries cited Sea World Florida in August 2010 for willfully endangering employees by not taking proper safety precautions. The citation said that the park allowed its employees to work with Tillikum, a killer whale with a history of aggressive behavior who was involved in the 1991 death of a trainer at a marine park in Vancouver, Canada.
OSHA attorney said in his opening remarks that the park allowed their trainers to take a calculated risk by working with killer whales that have the potential to cause harm to those who get close. Trainers are required to sign a document acknowledging that they have read the standard operating procedure manual and acknowledge the risk, which OSHA called a release waiver and argued that the park’s training for the handlers was substandard.